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South Reading H&H May 2013


South Reading MCC at Ashdown Farm – I like the place and have mostly come away with good results when racing there. Lately I’ve been doing a few practice days at the mx track so I’ve gotten to know it (the mx part at least) quite well. The first race of the year clashed with a Welsh enduro (the drovers I think), so I was forced to miss round one. I was quite looking forward to round two however as I needed a good result to compensate for my dismal showing in Wales. Actually I’ve not manage to get much racing under the wheels this year, what with the CHEC series ending and the majority of the others either clashing with something, or being too far away to travel on my own.


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just sorted out the pit stops -  not long now and it'll be time to race!
(Tony on my right)


Sunday morning came and the bike, Nicky and I headed over to Tony’s place to pick him up – thankfully this time he wasn’t still pissed from the night before, nor was he suffering from a cold, so today he had no excuses. Getting to Ashdown Farm is always I slightly more relaxed affair as the race starts an hour later than most events, so we had a gentle drive along the back roads and were pleased to see that the access road had been reworked slightly so it made it a slightly less fraught affair getting into the venue.

Signing on and getting the bikes through scrutineering went smoothly enough so then it was just a question of hanging around until the start. We placed the gear i.e. petrol etc. in a convenient position and then listened to the rider briefing. Starting the bikes to warm them up for the dead engine start I noticed I still had the foam inserts in the airbox breather holes so I pulled them out and found Nicky to hand them over. I had been anticipating a mega wet race what with all the rain we’d had during the week, but there were very few puddles about and the wind and sun looked like it would dry up the ground pretty quickly.


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two riders having a go at the big hill


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sideways action


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and two more having there own battle


The track headed away from the pit area and the straight led to the woods at the top of the mx track. Once we got into the woods the course wound its way through the trees, over some small logs and dropped into the mx track just after the two jumps in the trees. There is a tightish left turn followed by a right and then a kink with a little crest that brings you out into the open at the top of the big valleys. Two bermed turns and then a flat out run down the hill, up the other side where you can cut tight or keep on the gas to ride the berm to fly back down again, getting a small amount of air just after the turn. The next right turn you can again ride the berm or try and cut tight. Another kink in the track brings you up to the mini jump which has a fairly steep face and fires you up in the air from a relatively slow speed – and had a flat landing. This means you need to either have mx style suspension settings or ease off a bit. I’d gone for setting on the soft side which would cope well on the rough ground but would be too soft for the couple of jumps so took it easy on these.


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me riding the second berm you get to when entering the mx track


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Tony coming into land


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me too...


At the start I normally try and put in a burst of speed to try and brake away from anyone starting with me, it seemed to work as in no time I was catching other riders and making up ground.  After the jump the track kinks again and this bit is slippery so you have to be careful as you go into the next right turn which opens out into a flat out blast down the valley and up the other side into a wide right turn where again you can go wide or tight. Once more down the slope till you get to the last left turn before to get to……. the mega hill climb and jump. This is a great spot to jump but again it’s a flat landing to either you need hard setting or take it slightly steadier. The 250 can make up good time powering up the hill but I shut off just short of the crest to do a modest jump then go back on the gas hard to accelerate to the next corner, a gentle turn to the right where you need to get on the power early to gain enough speed to clear the upcoming jump and land on the downward slope. I gave it loads of gas on the approach to this jump as I’d been riding there recently and knew it could be taken fast for a smooth landing. I was a little enthusiastic and the bike’s front end came up a bit in the air. While all this was going on I noticed Nicky was standing there but I wasn’t sure she got the shot but it turns out she did.



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the jump in the woods after the big hill. me taking off on the one slope


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and landing perfectly on the far slope - sort of!


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the next lap wasn't quite so good as i went in nose first


One more turn to the right after that and a left before we had to exit the mx track to continue in the woods. After a few turns and a few quick blasts we got to an old favourite of SRMCC which is a large’ish log on a slope. I’ve had some issues on this in the past but a slight twist of the wrist to lighten the front and the xc floated over the log even when hitting it on an angle. A root infested track brought us out into the open at the top of a hill, just to the northeast of the farmyard. This hill is very bumpy and to keep up any sort of speed is very hard work on the arms (and legs) and the bike bucks about doing its best to kick you out the saddle. At the bottom of the slope is a step down that once again puts a lot of strain on the arms. At the bottom we turned left, a short straight and cut up over some tree roots onto the concrete farm road that we’d been warned about as being very slippery. It was slippery on the wet bit, but I gave it way too much respect in the early laps.


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Tony jumping in the woods


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and again by the big hill


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and me...



A quick run up the road and we turned off into the regular run along a narrow track that weaves left and right before cutting back over the road and into the second stand of trees. After a few very tight turns that can only be taken at less than walking pace, the track opened up a bit and you could get some speed up by squirting the power on in-between the turns. We weaved up and down the woods on familiar tracks then exited the woods by the ‘Fair Mile’ – crossed the restricted byway and made our way down the field at high speed to a left turn. It was at the next turn where things got a bit tricky. I think someone may have taken out some tape as it was a little unclear where to go at first. I think someone assumed it was straight on into the woods as we’ve done in the past but I stopped for a moment to look and take stock of my surroundings, then I noticed an orange arrow in the field through the gate so headed that way.


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little and large


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me turning into down the first big slope on the mx track.
i refreshing point of view from Nicky


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Tony at the same spot


Now this slope sorts the men form the boys as far as suspension and being able to hang on goes, its very bumpy. I did my best to speed up going down it, but its hard work especially in the later laps when you are getting tired. Anyway once at the bottom we continued over the field – there is a little hump that you can get some airtime off of if you are quick enough and then you get to a rutted track followed by a climb up a slope on a narrow sunken path called – The Goat Track. Once at the top you turn left and speed across the open grass field getting some big air if you got the power on hard enough, as there is one big drop off which can sort of hide itself from you if you don’t realise, as it blends into the grass. A high speed run down to the corner of the field and you enter the wood once more.

Weaving through the woods I came up to a group of riders facing towards me and someone picking their bike up. There was a moment of confusion but I noticed the orange crossed arrows were on my side of a low branch so that means they were to warn someone coming from my direction – so I took that as meaning I was in the right, which I was. After that we went round an opening in the woods before getting back into the trees again and followed familiar tracks once again until we hit the return run back to the pits via the ‘road of bones’ – it’s so rough it rattles your bones lose! Seriously its mega rough and holding on if you try to take it at speed is a major task. Back into the pits after one lap – only another three hours to go!



A video of the track. for best results click on settings and view in HD



After I got to know the track a little I sped up a as I was more confident on which way the track went. I passed a lot of people on the mx track and a fair few in the woods, the majority of them being very kind to ease to one side to allow the faster guys through.   I came upon a slower rider in the open field inside the woods on the second lap and unfortunately he close the gap I was aiming for on the inside of the turn and I hit him midpoint on the bike. He remained upright and I was struggling to stay on board too and just managed it. I yelled sorry and I hope he heard me as I feel bad when I make a mistake like that.

After a few laps I’d get the odd flash of red number boards though the trees and as I pushed harder I got sight of one of the Expert riders and I could tell I was making ground on him. This spurred me on a bit but I also got into a bit of a tussle with a rider No 32 Paul Bennett who I caught up to, but then had a running battle with him for a while. I got away in the end but I thought I had him hard on my tail so I tried hard not to let him past - only to eventually realise that it was an expert rider waiting to slip by, sorry about that, whoever it was.


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over on the  far side of the mx track - me jumping of the mini jump

Picture supplied by TeamSnapper


At the start of another lap I’d somehow managed to get in front of the expert rider (he may have been refueling) as I noticed him behind me. I pulled to one side to let him by then followed him through the woods into the mx track where I found I was faster so I overtook and entered the woods in front. He clawed some time back in the trees so once again I moved over and he slipped past and I chased him through the trees where he pulled a small gap, but he was riding a little wild to do it and as I came round a turn near the top of the woods by the fair mile there was a bike on its side and smashed headlight lens with bits of broken plastic lying on the ground. The rider was making a lot of noise so I figured he wasn’t too badly hurt! I stopped and a spectator/marshal (?) came running over to help him and told me to crack on. I said I’d go find a marshal but he said he had a phone anyway. I carried on, keeping an eye open for a yellow high viz and spotted a group in a field. One of the teamsnapper photographers were closer so I stopped to tell her there had been quite a bad prang in the woods and to send someone to help.


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me again on another lap overtaking someone

Picture supplied by TeamSnapper


I caught Tony in the woods somewhere and after following him for a short distance I was just about to yell some abuse at him then I decided not too as if he knew it was me he might get tit in his mind to block me off for the hell of it. In no time at all he pulled to one side and motioned with his boot to overtake so I did. Apparently I overtook him again later while he was refueling.  


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me in the woods
(by the open field mid point of the far woods)

Picture supplied by TeamSnapper


About halfway through the race I got a little sloppy and clipped a tree – with my little finger on my right hand! It was pretty painful and for a while I wondered if I’d broken it. I’ve never gotten round to fitting hand guards. I’ve not really needed them until recently when I hit a tree with the same finger. The bikes levers are ‘unbreakable’ so I was only after some roost protection. Anyway one more lap and in the same set of trees I whacked my finger again! This distracted me somewhat and I managed to catch a tree again, this time with the back of my hand (same hand) and again I was sure I’d broken or cracked something. From all the tree whacking my hand was now losing sensation and I was having trouble gripping the bars as I had no strength to squeeze. After a while it eased off and I concentrated a bit more when in that set of trees in case I got complacent and smacked it again.


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this is in the far fields on the other side of the woods....
jumping off the grass ledge - this step can make you fly surprisingly far!!!

Picture supplied by TeamSnapper


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er  it pains me to show this one - but i think i've never seen i bike that squished!

Picture supplied by TeamSnapper


One the last corner before the final long bumpy straight old teamsnapper was camped out taking photos. I lifted my left hand and gave a victory v sign while getting on the gas. The rear tyre lit up and stepped out nicely and I thought to myself “I hope he gets that shot as it should look cool” and he did!

Normally on my 450 I’d go for two hours then pit for a splash of petrol but my 250 is now quite good on fuel and with the bigger xc tank I can keep going for quite a while. On practice days I can ride almost the whole day on one tank of fuel. So I started thinking or wondering if I could make the three hours on one tankful? Having just a digital watch on the bars it became hard to work out how long I’d been riding. I had a look at the fuel level in the clear tank and carried on past the two hour mark but in the end I relented and pulled into the pits to get some more petrol. A quick half tank and I was away again. The next and third last lap was my quickest of the day.


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a very cool shot of me giving the victory V to teamsnapper

Picture supplied by TeamSnapper


By now the track seemed to be more empty and I knew we were in the homeward stretch I was just having difficulty working out my lap times. I wanted to get to the transponders with enough time to get a final lap in. In the end I wasn’t quick enough to squeeze one last lap in right at the dying moments, I missed it by 1min 53 seconds. Having said that it would not have made any difference in the results so I suppose I got away with doing an extra lap for no advantage!

So how did I get on? Well I’m glad to say that I had my best result ever with SRMCC, scoring a podium finish of third in the Clubman A class, I was really happy with that. Tony? Well I’m not too sure what is going on there as he limped home in 29th in the Clubman B class which does not do him justice at all, as I know he can do better than that. I think the lack of bike time this year has definitely not helped.

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©2012 John Muizelaar